Friday, May 1, 2015

Weekly Homeschool and Life Wrap-Up 5/1

Psalm 107:1 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Skip to the bottom for newly published trade books.

Note: Reader Terri H. - Congratulations! I assume your new baby arrived? You probably aren't reading blogs at this time, but I wanted to take this opportunity to say how happy I am for you. Be blessed!
Giving Thanks For...

~ A close relationship with both of my teen and tween boys

~ Two little girls who love to cuddle

~ The closing of our AWANA year; a solid run for each child

~ My children saying (and singing) verses that they love just for fun (Mama's gotta love AWANA!)

~ Excellent books to read

~ Praying together as a family is about the single best thing we do. It helps us see each other as Christ does...flawed but forgiven. When we pray about our personal weaknesses and each other's needs, our family members feel so much closer to us; they love us all the more, and feel all the more patient with our idiosyncrasies. Humbling ourselves before each other, and before God, is game-changing. 

~ The pediatrician saying my kids behave phenomenally. The four of them crowd into little exam rooms at every sibling's appointment and that could be a disaster, but the Lord has been gracious to me all these years with this--at the children's hospital and at the pediatrician's. The pediatrician is an Indian doctor but native to Ohio, and he knows we're Christians, so this is a testimony orchestrated by the Lord.

~ Siblings who are best friends

~ A nice time at the Cleveland Zoo for Educators's Day

~ The preparing for college series Marianne Sunderland wrote for families of dyslexics, although it's invaluable for any homeschooling family. Think scholarship links galore, for one.

~ A steadfast, loving husband

~ Unique personalities in my children...all of them making me smile

~$135 back from the dentist office, out of the blue (badly needed to pay for a repair project on our back door that went awry)

~ That the Lord always sends money just at the right moment from the strangest sources (the dentist office? Only God.)

~ Some of you know I had to cut ties with my mother and step-father 15 months ago--with Mother's Day coming, that just stinks--but the Lord is sustaining me through this rough patch and I am grateful. We can't choose our parents but we can choose how dedicated we are to our own children, so that our legacy is hopefully the opposite of what we came from. And of course, we can forgive and remember that outside of the Lord's grace, we would be there still.

What Went Right This Week

~ I happened to remember that a marked characteristic of learning disabilities is inconsistency in day-to-day performance. My second grader has dyslexia and whilst last week she could read a Magic Tree House book without frustration (i.e. about six errors per page) this week she just stumbled and stumbled and had to put it aside. She stumbled on the first story in her new All About Reading Level 3 book, as well. Ordinarily I would have responded with a private dismay, but I took it in stride, knowing this is what it's like having a learning disability. One day you can remember how to make a 15, and the next day it's not automatic. Dyslexics don't have the automaticity regular learners enjoy--but they make great entrepreneurs, artists, performers, inventors, so it's not all bad. 

I am learning how to be a supportive parent to a dyslexic--looking for the strengths and remediating the weaknesses as best I can, and remaining light-hearted about it all.

~ We ordinarily do about ten devotional sessions a week, between the morning ones with just the kids and me, and the evening ones that include Daddy. We all need every single one of them, and since this was a week full of frustrations, they saved us in so many ways.

~ It's working well for me to come up with journal and essay questions for the boys to write on, rather than trying to follow a writing curriculum. It helps me to better tailor the learning to their strengths and weaknesses. And I love reading the Sonlight novels they're reading (Core H), which is necessary for me to come up with good literary response topics.

~ I'm on a campaign to decrease our sugar intake and it's going well. Sugar is highly addictive, which you've probably noticed when you try to go a day with just a smidgen of it. Just the naturally occurring sugar in milk and fruit and grains adds up quickly.

What Went Wrong This Week 

~ We purchased a desktop PC from Amazon a few months ago and had to send it back. It appeared to have a failing hard drive. We picked something else out as a replacement (from an HP to a Lenovo--parent company IBM), and in the last three weeks that began to look like a lemon, too. I called to start service and possibly get a replacement, and found out that the warranty started last October, but I didn't purchase it until February, which makes me think Amazon is selling refurbished computers as new ones (just a hunch...don't quote me).

As per the tech--probably from India, who called to check on my progress at 11PM tonight!--I had to try doing a factory default setting before they would consider a replacement. I did that today and all is well so far, but it has been a week of researching what could be wrong with the PC, before finally calling the company for help.

~ And then there was the HP printer we bought several months ago, which began acting strangely and required research as well. It turned out to be a server problem with the company, and I did find a fix online, thank goodness. We're back in business.

~ We're 8 months out from Peter's concussion accident (fell out of a tree) and he still comes out of his room, after reading twenty pages, with an exhausted look and feel. He used to be ahead in all his reading, but now he is somewhat behind the curriculum pace. The fatigue breaks my heart and from my research I know it could be 1 to 5 years before this effect goes away. His worsened OCD coincided with his accident as well. My prayer is that the Lord in his grace will erase the effects of this accident very soon.

~ We bought LG flip phones recently after our other basic cell phones would no longer hold a charge, and mine, despite not being dropped, just goes dead randomly now (only about two months old). At first, taking out the battery and putting it back in seemed to reset it, but that didn't work as well this time. So there's that company to deal with too (Verizon). I. hate. technology. I don't have time for technology, but against my will I learn a lot each time theses things happen, as I scour the Internet for answers. My boys listen and learn too.

~ The raccoon who had babies and is living in our shed attic has been an unbelievable menace--damaging property, taking up our days and evenings, and just generally appalling us with her antics. You wouldn't believe the strength of these animals. We nailed and blocked off the damage in the siding she made, with a heavy barrel full of construction debris, a heavy door, and a wheelbarrow, and she still got in and made a mess and reopened her damage hole. She pulled open the grill of the shed attic also, bending it back like the hulk. We always make sure she and her babies are out before we board anything up, but she just keeps coming back. 

It's a scene out of Caddyshack around here and team human is not winning. The previous owner designed this side of the shed to be a greenhouse, making the insulation necessary for warmth. My crazy-mad husband is thinking of sawing out the attic so no nursing-momma raccoon finds it cozy ever again. I hope it doesn't come to that and I'm trying to stay out of it. All the other sheds in the neighborhood are of the traditional type, so ours is particularly inviting, with the insulation like soft blankets for new life.

The reason it's against the law to trap them is because cities and towns don't want you to catch and release (these animals have to be put down). Once they feed out of trash cans and live in neighborhoods, they become a menace. Driving them elsewhere only makes it someone else's problem. Not very helpful for us, since we have no money for this kind of thing! Even the cage to catch them is pricey, not to mention hiring a pest company as an alternative.

In Other News

Mary is learning two more ways to make the long a sound--/ay/ /ai/ (All About Reading 3)

The children are still using the large Melissa and Doug blocks they got for Christmas.

I found a mild enchilada sauce recipe, of which my husband's heartburn approves. Too bland for me, so I have to tweak it and make two separate batches--one with more spices. Everyone loves homemade enchiladas here.

Teaching Textbooks continues to be my best homeschooling friend ever. Mary can't wait to start the third grade level next January and get her own buddy sound.

Paul made no-bake cookies (peanut butter, oatmeal, sugar, butter, vanilla (so not healthy) the day before I decided we needed to cut way down on sugar. He found a library book featuring 150 no-bake cookie recipes. I told him we can have a sweet dessert no more than 3 times a week, and he was not thrilled, but he and his brother are on board to be as healthy as possible, nonetheless. The girls are far less thrilled at the change in dessert frequency. And hubby says...what in the world will we do without stress relievers, such as no-bake cookies?! When things stop breaking down and raccoons stop terrorizing us, maybe he can do without dessert, but right now he doesn't think so. He eats a very healthy, well-rounded diet, but he enjoys dessert to help neutralize life's downs.

Here's Beth with her arm around Paul, while he teaches her anatomy using Khan Academy. It made me smile, seeing these two peas in a pod doing this just for fun. They're my intellectual ones, while my other two are the nature & outdoor lovers, who would never waste a good sunny day on Khan Academy, thank you very much. I love the uniqueness of each child! Just a thrill and a gift seeing their individual personalities unfold before my eyes. Mothering is divine.

The thing I love about Khan Academy is the way the instructors' talk/teach and point to something on the screen at the same time with the marking pen, giving children with learning disabilities a leg up (audio and visual simultaneously). It's up close and personal--not from the chalkboard of a large classroom. The teaching isn't unique, just effective.

Newly Published Social Studies, Music, & Science Trade Books

Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Six Guiding Beliefs (as told by his niece) 
by Angela Farris Watkins, PhD, published February, 2015

School Library Journal Synopsis: Gr 2–6—In this vividly illustrated picture book, Watkins, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., provides a simplified version of his six guiding principles of nonviolence: have courage; love your enemies; fight the problem, not the person who caused it; when innocent people are hurt, others are inspired to help; resist violence of any kind; and the universe honors love. Referring to King as "Uncle Martin," Watkins states each principle and then describes one clearly written example of how King followed it. Instances selected include the burning of King's home in 1956 and King's famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail," in which he argued for nonviolent resistance. The bold, colorful mixed-media illustrations capture the emotion of the situations described, and Watkins's writing style is conversational but impassioned ("So even when Uncle Martin was hurt, he did not respond with violence."). Though informative, this title lacks back matter. An excellent choice for younger students studying King and for teachers explaining violence in history and current events, as well as for beginning middle school students.—Stephanie Farnlacher

LuiGi at the Opera 
by Ellie Alldredge-Bell published January, 2015

Synopsis by School Library Journal:  Gr 1–3—Luigi and his grandpa Rigoletto are aficionados, and when they go to see Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, "an opera about a ghost ship," Luigi is totally enthralled. He admires the elegant lobby, views the orchestra through his opera glasses, and is enchanted by the music, singers, and scenery that bring the masterpiece to life. Under his grandfather's guidance, he learns appropriate dress, opera etiquette, and even a bit of Italian to complete the experience. Alldredge-Bell's text is clear, concise, and instructive without being dry, and while the action is limited, the duo's enthusiasm for the opera is contagious. Primary-grade audiences will delight in seeing the twosome singing arias while driving and the piccolo player scratching her nose with her instrument. Williams-Ng's watercolor cartoons range in size from a quarter-page to full spreads, with the larger illustrations proving most effective in terms of detail and color. The pictures are generally playful—the beehive hairdos are especially fun. Some, unfortunately, as in the case of the soprano, have too much white space, and pages with text alone have a sterile feel. Still, the illustrations of the author and her husband in the lobby scene add a bit of fun. Endnotes explaining Wagner's opera, vocabulary definitions, and Italian pronunciations will assist budding opera lovers. Luigi can be paired with Gary Clement's The Great Poochini (Groundwood, 1999) for a lighthearted look at this musical art form.—Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan

A Violin for Elva 
by Mary Lyn Ray, published February, 2015

Synopsis by Publisher's Weekly: Elva, a girl with an upturned nose whose hair is never quite tidy, hears a neighbor’s enchanting music through the hedge and asks her parents for a violin. Ray’s (Go to Sleep, Little Farm) prose softens their refusal by giving it lilt and rhythm: “She asked them both. She asked with please. But they hadn’t heard what Elva heard. And they said no.” Elva, undeterred, continues to dream. She grows up, works, loves her dog, grows gray—and buys, at last, a violin. Ray’s story is not a fairy tale—Elva never masters the instrument—but Tusa’s (Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean) image of the earnest woman standing amid much smaller child students at their first recital has a deep sweetness. Quiet humor (Elva’s dog lying belly-up on the floor, defeated by his mistress’s terrible intonation) provides a tender accompaniment to this meditation on fulfilling one’s dreams. The last spread, in which Elva soars into the air with her violin, borne aloft on strains of music, offers a vision of the only kind of success that really matters. Ages 4–8

Juna's Jar 
by Jane Bahk, published February, 2015

School Library Journal Synopsis: PreS-Gr 2—Charming soft watercolor illustrations and a sweet story that tugs at the imagination provide a flight of fancy that youngsters will enjoy hearing again and again. Little Juna and her friend Hector share adventures in the park across the street from their apartment building in Koreatown. Interesting critters and other items go into Juna's empty kimchi jar to be studied, then released. When Hector moves away, Juna's older brother, Minho, observing her sadness, buys her a small fish, gives her a small bean plant grown at school, then helps her find twigs and leaves in the park to provide a habitat for a cricket. Each night, the kimchi jar takes Juna on a fabulous journey. The goldfish takes her on an undersea adventure, growing so large that it must be transferred to the family aquarium. The bean plant transports her to a tropical rainforest, then is moved to a large pot on the balcony; the cricket carries Juna over city buildings to the window of Hector's bedroom, where his stone-filled kimchi jar sits on a windowsill near his bed. Seeing Hector safe and happy allows Juna to move on and make a new friend at the park. Hoshino's delightful detail-filled paintings of Juna's nighttime adventures show smiling sea creatures, sloths, monkeys and crocodiles, and a city alive with activity, illuminated by vehicle headlights "that lit up the hill like a string of holiday lights." Use this title inpreschool storytimes or in the classroom to stimulate leaps of imagination.—Susan Scheps

Millie's Chickens 
by Brenda Williams published March, 2015

Synopsis by School Library Journal: K-Gr 2—This sweet British import features a rhyming text that highlights various aspects of poultry care. "Here are the chicks,/Hatching out well,/Pecking their way/From inside the shell." Appealing illustrations use loose acrylics with saturated color. Millie's idyllic backyard is filled with plants, a slide, a clothesline, and happily pecking chickens. One of Millie's hens, Silkie, gets lost, but is quickly found with a clutch of eggs, and Millie is kept contentedly busy looking after the chickens and their new baby chicks. Endpapers feature an assortment of heritage breed chickens on a soft blue background. The back matter includes a colorful illustrated glossary and informative text on keeping chickens, chicken anatomy, parts of an egg, and the life cycle of chickens as well as suggestions of different cooking methods for eggs. VERDICT An appealing picture book answer to the question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"—Madigan McGillicuddy

How was your week, friends? Have a blessed weekend and thank you for reading here!

Weekly Wrap-Up


Nermarí Faría Broderick said...

What a full and abundant week. That's great that your kids do well as the doctor's office. My boys get all excited and always try to hide from him (under the exam chair!) Ha! But they are learning as they are growing. Thanks for sharing!

Christine said...

My boys were squirrely everywhere we went when they were much younger. It was exhausting, but fun. :) My girls like to twirl around most places they have room to move.

Have a blessed week and thank you for visiting, Nermari!

Anonymous said...

My word you are busy! I love the picture of Winnie the Pooh. I used to live near the 'real' Hundred Acre Wood. I have even played Pooh Sticks on Pooh Bridge! These days I have a half dozen prints of the original EH Shepard paintings blown up to A4 size hanging in the dining room, hall and living room. I'm not an overly sentimental person, but there is something about the humour and simplicity of the stories and illustrations that touches my heart.
Anyway... you have your hands full lately, it would seem. I wish I could do something to help, but I will keep praying :-)

Christine said...

I am overly sentimental, as you probably guessed! :) Pooh Bear and his friends will always hold a special place in my heart. I told the kids we will never get rid of our Pooh Bear, purchased when my youngest was a baby. They never play with it and really never have much, but he will be passed down through the generations, I expect.
We have a large Pooh story collection, which they have always loved.

Always good to hear from you, Sandy!